This is the first in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Tom Olijhoek.
A project to explore the language, access and epistemological barriers that put the equity, diversity and inclusiveness of OA scholarly communication at risk in Africa and other areas in the Global South
Image credit: Prof. Florence Piron, training session at the Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé. Cameroun
Defining the problem
Scientific research is not just about advancing knowledge. In today’s world, it is attempting to fulfill two other roles assigned to it by science policy: on the one hand, to contribute to the economic development of a country by generating marketable innovations (knowledge economy) and, on the other hand, to contribute to the common good of a society defined according to its priorities and needs (societal impact).
In the Global South, which are plagued by many economic, political, environmental, social or energy problems, scientific research should and could offer a major contribution to the search for solutions. However, as several surveys (Alperin 2013; Gibs 1995) and statistics from commercial databases or from the DOAJ show, research is struggling to emerge in these countries: publications from universities in for example French-speaking Africa are very few, not very visible, not widely read, and so most African universities are more familiar with publications from the North than from their neighbors.
Among the explanations of this phenomenon that we want to explore together during the seminar, the hegemony of the English language on the scientific publishing system comes first (Panko 2017). Indeed, few graduate students, lecturers and professors from French-speaking Africa (where university education is taught in French) are proficient in English. That situation prevents them from fully understanding publications in this language or from publishing articles in English-language journals, the most visible on the web right now.
For researchers, choosing to produce knowledge in their own languages would allow them not only to integrate within it the local world vision and knowledge, but also to maximize the use of this knowledge by their fellow citizens, whether in Economics, Public Service or Civil Society.
The domination of the English language in the publication system entails a serious risk for researchers from the Francophone Global South (Hountondji 1994, 2001). They want or are expected by their university to publish away from their language and therefore from their first public, their fellow citizens. In so doing, they target an Anglophone public that is not necessarily interested in their research topics or their way to approach it. The same situation exists in other language areas.
Language, knowledge sharing and Open Access
The two major problems encountered in global scholarly communication are:
1) Cognitive injustice linked to language hegemony
The concept of cognitive justice, stemming from the reflections of the Indian anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan designates an epistemological, ethical and political ideal aimed at the emergence and the free circulation of knowledge that is socially relevant all over the planet, not just in the North. The current system favors the circulation of knowledge present in English language publications.2) Bias in scholarly knowledge production, (open) access and preservation
Because of the emphasis on publishing in English language journals from the Global North, knowledge in other languages and indigenous knowledge from Global South countries is much underrepresented in the total Global Knowledge output. Open Access is often seen as a way to promote equity in knowledge, but it also bears the hidden risk of serving continued global dominance of the Northern science system maintaining the invisibility of African science, seldom digitized or in open access (Piron 2017).
Our project aims at finding ways to promote the accessibility of local and indigenous knowledges starting with the Francophone Global South in order to bring more equity, diversity and inclusiveness in scholarly communication.
A reference point for the project is the project SOHA (Open science in Haiti and Africa as a tool of cognitive justice and collective empowerment) (Piron 2016) and the book published on the outcomes of SOHA ( Piron et al, 2016).
We want to seek collaboration with other communities like the Creative Commons Global Network (https://network.creativecommons.org/) and the OCSD Network (https://ocsdnet.org/) in order to work with the people concerned in this project as much as possible from the beginning onward. In particular, we are very interested in the potential of multilingualism as a means of countering the hegemony of one language over others.
The other problem that we want to explore together from our varied positions in the academic world is the fascination exerted on scholars from the Global South by the center of the science world-system, especially the whole system of promotion based on journals with impact factor that is increasingly also imposed in French-speaking countries. Is it possible to propose an alternative system of promotion based on other quality criteria? We want to write an advocacy paper in French asking to give up the impact factor as evaluation criteria, in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Scientific Assessment(DORA: https://sfdora.org/).
Our proposed deliverables at the end of the seminar are:
- A global paper called provisionally “Institutionalized diglossia in Francophone African science : risks and solutions”, in French and in English to be submitted to the journals Science, Technology and Human Values et Anthropologie des connaissances.
- An advocacy paper critical of the impact factor cult, for The Conversation (Africa, the English and French editions)
- 2 blog posts on the DOAJ website (in English and French)
- 2 blog posts in French on the Scienceafrique.org future platform (one of the projects that we want to present to each other and discuss during the seminar)
- A guide to article publications in Open Access intended for African francophone scholars
- Promotion of non-English journals and developing / adopting new ways for the assessment of scientific quality *
- Contribute to establishing scholarly knowledge as a commons by default through the promotion of Open Access publishing
* This would entail the creation and support of French-speaking African journals and archiving of Francophone African Science in a multilateral open repository. We would also like to promote the Directory of Open Access Journals as the global list of quality open access journals (Olijhoek et al. 2015), currently accepted in many parts of the world.
Our team will bring together multiple disciplines and perspectives:
Florence Piron is an anthropologist and ethicist, a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Laval University where she teaches critical thinking through courses on ethics and democracy. She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house, Éditions science et bien commun. She has been responsible for the SOHA project (open science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) from 2015 to 2017 and is now leading a research-creation project in theatrical writing and an action-research project on science shops in French-speaking Africa and Haiti. She publishes numerous books with her students, particularly the series Portraits de femmes and Québec as open city.
Kamel Belhamel holds a PhD in the Process Engineering and Electrochemistry from the University of Setif since 2005. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Bejaia in Algeria (ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9099-8040) He has taken part in several international projects such as: German – DAAD project, French- Algerian framework programme CMEP and co-ordinator of several Algerian national research projects. From January 2018, He is DOAJ Managing Editor for North Africa and Middle East countries ( https://doaj.org/about).
Zakari LIRE (Burkina Faso), MA in information sciences, is a PhD student in public communication at Université Laval. He has been working for two decades for CAMES (African and Malagasy Council for Higher education) as Chief Librarian and manager of the quality insurance in higher education program. Since 2017, in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communication of Université Laval, he has been actively involved in the implementation of a project entitled “DICAMES” which promotes open access to publications within Francophone Africa through a digital gateway. He is co-author a several papers, including “Le libre accès vu d’Afrique francophone subsaharienne”, Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication(2017).
Aurélie Fichot is a research engineer in scientific and technical information, documentation and heritage collections, responsible for resources and documentation engineering. She is Head of the Documentation Centre of Sciences Po Grenoble (France) and is in charge of Mir@bel for Sciences Po Grenoble, co-founder (2009) and member of the steering committee of this free and open network which facilitates access to electronic journals, mainly for French-language ones on social sciences and humanities. She also actively participates in the Sign@l network, a free and open database reporting the content of French-language journals in the humanities and social sciences.
Tom Olijhoek has been living and working in Africa for more than 7 years doing research into tropical and exotic diseases during much of his career. He has spent several years in Africa (Kenya, Algeria) doing research on malaria, sleeping sickness and meningococcal epidemics. Since 2012 he is advocating open access and open science as Open Access working group coordinator for Open Knowledge International (https://okfn.org/). Since 2014 he is Editor in Chief at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ: https://doaj.org/). From January 2018 his main task has become managing of the global DOAJ ambassador programme and global outreach activities including connecting to other open communities like the Creative Commons Global Network and OCSD Net.
Zoé Aubierge Ouangré
Zoé Aubierge Ouangré is a lecturer in information science at the University of Koudougou (Burkina Faso). She is about to defend her doctoral thesis in information science at the University of Montreal where she is also participating in the teaching programme. Her research project focuses on the informational behavior of medical students in Burkina Faso. She is particularly interested in the access to scientific information and the difficulties encountered in this respect by students and lecturers of French-speaking universities in Africa. She is a member of the APSOHA (Association for the Promotion of Open Science in Haiti and Africa).
- Alperin, J.P. 2013. World scaled by number of documents in Web of Science by Authors Living There. http://jalperin.github.io/d3-cartogram/
- Interactive map was produced by Juan Pablo Alperin (@juancommander) using js and cartogram.js. It was inspired by the out of date map over at worldmapper.org
- J. 2006. The development and use of digital libraries, institutional digital repositories and open access archives for research and national development in Africa: opportunities and challenges“. In Workshop on Building African Capacity to Implement the Outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in the Sphere of Libraries and Access to Information and Knowledge. United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 27 – 30, 2006.\
- De Sousa Santos, 2007. Beyond abyssal thinking. From global lines to ecologies of knowledges. Reproduced in Eurozine
- Gibbs, W. 1995. Lost Science in the Third World. 10.1038/scientificamerican0895-92
- Guédon, J.C. 2017. L’histoire de la forme revue au prisme de l’histoire de la « grande conversation scientifique » Entretien avec Jean-Claude Guédon réalisé par Alain Loute, préparé avec l’aide de Caroline Glorie, Thomas Franck et Andrea Cavazzini. Cahiers du GRM, volume 12.https://journals.openedition.org/grm/912
- Hountondji, P. 1994. Les savoirs endogènes. Pistes pour une recherche. Dakar : CODESRIA.
- Hountondji, P. 2001. Le savoir mondialisé : déséquilibres et enjeux actuels. La mondialisation vue d’Afrique, Université de Nantes/Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Guépin.
- Mboa Nkoudou, T. 2016. Les injustices cognitives en Afrique subsaharienne: réflexions sur les causes et les moyens de lutte. Chapter 2 In Justice cognitive, libre accès et savoirs locaux: pour une science ouverte juste, au service du développement local durable. Québec : Éditions science et bien commun. https://scienceetbiencommun.pressbooks.pub/justicecognitive1/chapter/les-injustices-cognitives-en-afrique-subsaharienne-reflexions-sur-les-causes-et-les-moyens-de-lutte/
- Olijhoek, T., Mitchell, D and Bjørnshauge, L., 2015. Criteria for open access and publishing. ScienceOpen Research. DOI: 14293/S2199-1006.1.SOR-EDU.AMHUHV.v1
- Panko, B. 2017. English Is the Language of Science. That Isn’t Always a Good Thing. Smithsonianmag.
- Piron, F. et al. 2016. Une autre science est possible. Récit d’une utopie concrète, le projet SOHA. Possibles, 40(2). https://www.projetsoha.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Possibles40e_Piron.pdf
- Piron, F., 2017. Postcolonial Open Access. Open Divide: critical Studies on Open Access. Sacramento : Litwin Pub. https://corpus.ulaval.ca/jspui/handle/20.500.11794/16178
- Piron, F., Regulus, S. and Djiboune Madiba, M.S. (ed.), 2016. Justice cognitive, libre accès et savoirs locaux. Pour une science ouverte juste, au service du développement local durable. Québec : Éditions science et bien commun. http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/13715
- Piron, F., Diouf, A.B., Dibounje Madiba, M.S., Mboa Nkoudou, T.H., Aubierge Ouangré, Z., Tessy, D.R., Rhissa Achaffert, H., Pierre, A. and Lire, Z., 2017. Le libre accès vu d’Afrique francophone subsaharienne. Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication, (11). https://journals.openedition.org/rfsic/3292
- San Francisco Declaration on Scientific Assessment(DORA: https://sfdora.org/)
[ Post edited on 26 September to reflect a change in one of the team members. ]